Japan Nite, SXSW XX, March 18, 2006, Austin, TX

Somehow, I managed to find the one parking lot in downtown Austin where the attendent told me I have until midnight to keep my car there.

What the fuck?

What kind of business would tell customers to go home two hours before last call during fucking SXSW?

And yet, my aging body replied, "Wow … it would be so nice to get home before 1 a.m."

So I capitulated.

Here I am, 12:30 a.m. Tsu*Shi*Ma*Mi*Re is probably finishing its last song, and I’m at home typing this entry. And I don’t fucking mind! Do I qualify for membership in the AARP now?

I blew off the SXSW music conference panels early to catch up on sleep I’ve been missing since the start of the festival. When I woke up, it was 7:40 p.m., and I only 20 minutes before the start of Japan Nite.

All that to say, I missed the first half of Vasallo Crab 75. When I walked in, the band was in the middle of a cover of Michael Jackson’s "Bad".

That’s not necessarily a great first impression to make. But unlike most of the punk/garage-skewed bands on the bill, Vasallo Crab 75 offers music akin to the New Order machinations of syrup 16g. Melodic and refined, Vasallo Crab 75 pre-emptively countered the rawness expected later in the night.

The Rodeo Carburettor followed. Chances are, if you like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, you’ll like the Rodeo Carburettor. I don’t like Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, so there’s no need for any more opinion from me.

PE’Z usually starts its albums with a spark, but the first song of the jazz quintet’s set was a fraction of that usual energy. It was a smart move. No sound check preceded the band’s showcase, so the trumpet and saxophone mics weren’t turned up till a minute into that first song.

The Elysium staff are absolutely incompetent when it comes to mic-ing an upright bass. Last year’s Petty Booka showcase was marred by a silent upright bass, and even when a mic was set up half way through the set, only the lowest notes registered.

History repeated itself as PE’Z suffered through the same indignity. Fortunately, the band’s explosive playing drew attention away from the techincal difficulties.

As the band’s showcase wore on, the pieces got faster and faster. The oddest sight was a guy pumping his fist in punk rock fashion while a number of drunk white people attempted (unsuccessfully) to swing dance behind him. That’s the kind of bizarre juxtaposition the music of PE’Z illicits.

After finishing up with "Jounetsu no Yukue" — the band’s ending theme for the last three albums — I felt a cap to my evening. I really didn’t need to see anything else after that.

But I stuck around for Ellegarden. I’m not the target market for the post-Weezer/Blink 182 power pop, and during the sound check, the band started playing the Pixies’ "Bleed" Weezer’s "The Sweater Song", and the crowd went wild.

If that isn’t an omen …

To its credit, Ellegarden whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a set of well-crafted albeit by-the-numbers punk-pop tunes. The folks into were really into it, and this kind of music was absolutely ideal in a live setting.

It didn’t stop me from getting restless, and the idea of being home after such an exhausting week of conference panels and live music became too tempting to pass up.

I’ve seen Tsu*Shi*Ma*Mi*Re before, and Soozoo Ninshin is perhaps one of the most distinct albums among the cute Japanese girl punk so emblematic of the Sister/Benten record label. I’m not enough of a fan, though, to have stuck around for their set.

And I was already planning to split before the Emeralds came on. See previous re: Thee Michelle Gun Elephant.

PE’Z made my night and as such, made a fine conclusion to this year’s SXSW experience.

Will my body finally conk out next year? I guess we’ll find out next March.